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New York City

5 Ways to More Easily Navigate the U.S. Political Zeitgeist as a Highly Sensitive Person

Let me take you back to a time long ago (a.k.a. two weeks ago); a time when many of us thought, regardless of how or whether you voted, that after the US presidential election, tensions would die down and we could all get back to posting cat videos on Facebook.

Well, that didn’t exactly happen.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks, and I think it’s been rough in a special way for us Highly Sensitive People.

Being the deep emotional/intellectual processors that we are, these times might be Not only are we feeling our own stuff, but we’re feeling it from our housemates, spouses, friends, co-workers, clients, people on the bus. Let’s not even get started with social media…

In can sometimes be hard to separate out what’s “ours” and what’s “theirs.” It can be hard not to feel overwhelmed by the zeitgeist.

Lights over the US Midwest

Lights over the US Midwest

For many of us, those emotions manifest physically. In my massage and bodywork practice, I’m noticing more complaints of neck and shoulder tension, shortness of breath, a “pit in the stomach,” low back pain, chest tightness, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, etc.

If you’ve been feeling any of this, please know that you are not alone.

So, what can be done? I’ve been experimenting and thinking it over for myself, and…

Here are 5 ways to protect yourself from burn-out and overwhelm, and more easily flow with life:

1. You do not necessarily need to be on the front lines. One of my greatest lessons from reading Dr. Elaine Aron’s landmark book, “The Highly Sensitive Person,” is that HSPs are like royal advisors. In difficult times, we need the people who are capable and eager to go out swinging and raising a ruckus, and we just as much need the more quiet, gentle people. The world needs our deep impressions of what’s going on and our thoughtful, conscientious responses to life’s most challenging questions. I find that many HSPs care so deeply, and thus want to be on the “battlefield,” too, but that is not always the best use of our power.

2. Unpleasant or uncomfortable physical sensations may arise, and they can be challenging. Your first response might be to try to ignore, numb, or extricate them when they get too overwhelming. May I offer an alternative? Place a loving hand over where it hurts. Just bring it loving, gentle attention. Let that place know you see it, you hear it. You can even say to it, “I see you. I hear you. You are safe.”

You might be surprised when the sensations start to slowly shift, simply by being acknowledged.

Or, instead of trying to force deep inhales and exhales if it’s feeling hard to breathe, just observe your breathing. See what it’s doing. If your breathing feels tight or constricted, notice a place in your body that feels less tight or constricted; maybe even feeling totally good. Can you open your awareness to include both? What happens to the tight, constricted place when you focus on the less tight or good feeling place?

3. Write yourself many a permission slip! It is not weak or frivolous to need more rest, more time away from social media, more tea, more movies, more time in nature, or more professional care. Take that nap, that walk, or that day or afternoon off, if you can. Schedule a session with a care provider you trust
(massage therapist, bodyworker, therapist, etc.). You deserve care, now more than ever.

4 Be real with yourself and others. The more I build my strength as an Highly Sensitive Person and spend time around other HSPs, the more I notice how strong our voices are. And yet, we are often the first to try to, “keep the peace,” to please others, or to blend in so as to not attract too much attention. In whatever way feels right, right now, I dare you to express your beliefs and feelings. This may feel a little edgy, but it will help oh so much. Because primarily, you will be practicing being real with yourself. And that will fortify you deeply.

5. Reach out to your community. Spend time and have conversations with people who “get you.” Now more than ever, we need each other.

I hope this helps, dear HSP. As always, take what resonates and leave the rest. If you have a helpful tip or insight to add, please share in the comments below so that we might all benefit.

Sending you much gentleness and warmth,

P.S. Please forward this article to the HSPs in your life. It may just be the gentle reminder they needed, and will let them know they’re not alone!

(Originally published on November 20, 2016 at

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